Avatar startup Genies launches $1M fund for developers building AR experiences


Image Credits: Genies

Genies, the Bob Iger-backed avatar tech company, announced Thursday the launch of its Developer Engagement Fund to reward developers that build AR experiences via Genies’ recently announced developer kit. The total fund size is $1 million.

Genies will reward certain developers based on the level of traction, such as how many users are participating in the avatar experience, how frequently they’re engaging and how many users are interacting with the digital items within the experience.

The startup introduced its developer kit in May, which gives select developers access to Genies’ full tech stack, allowing them to launch mini-apps, customize avatars to fit their aesthetic and create experiences from mini-games to virtual “social worlds,” according to the company.

Avatar startup Genies hits $1 billion valuation in latest raise

The mini-apps will launch within Genies’ upcoming super app, which is expected to roll out this fall. The network includes Genies’ Silver Studio, a DIY digital fashion app (still in beta) where users dress up and personalize their avatars.

The developer kit also includes XR (extended reality) compatibility, which means the avatar experiences have the potential to perform well in mobile AR, AR glasses and VR headsets. However, at the start, the experiences will launch on mobile.

“We think this is really important, especially in the context of Apple Vision Pro,” Genies CEO Akash Nigam told TechCrunch in an interview. “In 2017, when we were building this, we knew that at one point we were going to live in an augmented world. And when that did happen, any type of social or interactive experience that you wanted to do with your friends, whether it was a mini-game or some type of social network, or use case, you’re going to need an avatar as a prerequisite… The XR compatibility tech makes it so that any of these avatars or creations can spawn effectively and performantly in an AR world.”

The new engagement fund and the developer kit are by application only. The first batch of developers to be accepted for the fund will mainly be college students and other beginners that are selected for Genies’ Developer Incubator, which provide mentorship and tips for how to launch their own AR experiences.

The company will launch the first cohort this summer. Developers can submit their applications through the Genies website.

“We want to be able to work hands-on with each of the developers to be able to cultivate their experiences through the dev kit,” Nigam told us. “We really want to make sure that people are leveraging these avatars in a way that’s going to be additive to the entire ecosystem…We want to make sure that we can incentivize them to build experiences the right way.”

Nigam said Genies is selective about the developers they accept. The developers are required to have a few years of coding experience to fully understand the technology.

“We have built it in a way that, over time, you can have almost little to no technical expertise to be able to create an avatar experience,” he added.

Initially, the company plans on accepting hundreds of developers to participate in the million-dollar pool and be rewarded on a monthly basis. By early 2024, Genies will accept thousands of developers.

“It’s really based on how many developers we can best support in the very beginning,” Nigam said.

Avatar startup Genies scores $65 million in funding round led by Mary Meeker’s Bond

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